The record store down the street from me insists on putting Surfing under the Devendra Banhart section, even though it is quite clearly labeled "Megapuss". I guess it makes sense, but the pedant in me always wants to move it. Megapuss is a side project of indie folk icon (can indie music have icons or is that oxymoronic?) Devendra Banhart, teaming up with his friends and fellow musicians Greg Rogove and Fabrizio Moretti, and his producer Noah Georgeson. It is a far cry from the simpler, staightforward Rejoicing In The Hands, but Devendra has branched out significantly since then and the music of Megapuss doesn't seem so out of place beside his 2009 album What We Will Be, or even Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, which came out before Surfing.
Devendra Banhart's albums have always had a couple silly songs nestled among the other sincere and occasionally beautiful ones, and I guess he ran out of hiding places and figured it was time to make an album where he could fool around from start to finish. I like the idea of undertaking the project with a new name, because even though most of these songs would fit right in on a Devendra Banhart album, having them all together does alter the presentation. Because the music is pretty decent I hesitate to label it as a joke album, but Megapuss does seem to be a joke band, and it's nice to see that Banhart can still goof off with his level of fame being what it is.
So what is Surfing? It's very Californian, but the term surf rock brings to mind something far too energetic for this laid-back album. On each song it sounds like the take they went with was the first one on which you couldn't hear anyone laughing. Cheesy reverb effects are nothing new to Banhart, and they abound here as well. A lot of the lyrics, especially those of Duck People Duck Man or Surfing, sound like they were written scant minutes before the microphones were switched on. Despite all this, it never sounds sloppy or amateurish, and with the experience of the musicians involved, it's not surprising.
I wouldn't treat this as a comedy album because nothing here is particularly funny. Sure, there's a song called Hamman that has the bridge "there's a ham for everybody, there's a ham for everyone" softly cooed until the chorus comes in, but that's not funny. It's just weird. Then again, put it next to Trout Mask Replica and it will seem like the most normal song ever written. But that's not the point of this album. Jimmy Urine and Steve Righ? of MSI once created a band and album called The Left Rights which contains numerous references to feces and sounds like it was recorded in a single night, but the important part about that album is this: the fun they had making it is audible. On the Beatles' Anthology 3, Paul McCartney messes up Rocky Raccoon and says the doctor is "sminking of gin", then laughs and rolls with it. Now imagine an entire album like that. That's the point: music doesn't have to be perfect; it can be messy, it can be silly. The chorus of Megapuss' Theme To Hollywood repeats the words "we're having too much fun", but as far as I can tell, it's just the right amount.
1. Crop Circle Jerk '94 (4:30)
2. Duck People Duck Man (3:24)
3. To the Love Within (2:36)
4. Adam & Steve (1:46)
5. Theme from Hollywood (4:42)
6. Surfing (5:01)
7. Lavender Blimp (1:17)
8. Mister Meat (Hot Rejection) (0:25)
9. Hamman (3:46)
10. A Gun on His Hip and a Rose on His Chest (3:08)
11. Chicken Titz (3:54)
12. Sayulita (7:05)
13. Older Lives (3:27)
14. Another Mother (2:47)
Surfing - Megapuss - 2008 - Vapor Records